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Oceanex Energy eyes Taranaki for offshore wind farms

An Australian company has plans for developing offshore and floating wind farms in Australia and New Zealand.

Oceanex Energy is pushing the ambitious plans and is looking at developing offshore farms producing three gigawatts of power in New Zealand and nine gigawatts in Australia.

The company identified up to eight New Zealand sites but believed Taranaki offered one of the best options, in part because of its good and consistent wind, and because it had an oil and gas industry with many similarities in skills needed.

Oceanex chief executive Andy Evans said New Zealand was a natural place to look at and develop offshore wind farms.

“We’ve assessed wind resource, we’re looking at grid availability, and we’re looking at skill sets and local industries that are able to execute these projects, and New Zealand has many of the things needed.”

The company had some initial contact with the government and other interested parties but would now increase its contact with communities, industries and officials, he said.

However, it would take years to develop any scheme and any offshore development would likely not occur before the end of the decade.

New Zealand was also attractive to such developments and the money needed to build them because of its “can do” attitude and high level of renewable energy already, Evans said.

Offshore wind farms needed to be relatively larger than land-based ones and were more expensive, but there was no shortage of money internationally available for the right projects, he said.

“There are a lot of global investors who want to get involved in these projects … there’s a lot of money out that’s attracted to really large projects, 1000 megawatts-plus and that’s really accelerated New Zealand in our eyes,” Evans said, adding that local investors could find a place in any project.

New Zealand has 17 wind farms capable of producing about 690 megawatts of power, equivalent to 6 percent of all power.

Oceanex is also involved in a development off the New South Wales coast, Star of the South, and has identified sites on the coast of Victoria and West Australia.

Offshore wind farms have been built in northern Europe, the UK, and Ireland, and projects are being looked at in the US and Asia driven by the technology’s falling costs, high capacity factors, and low visual impact.